first horse I ever saddle broke was an 18 year old, maybe-halter-broke, arabian mare. She had been a baby factory her whole life, and when she could no longer produce, was donated to the college I was attending. The people had had her from birth and were very upfront about her being basically feral.
I was taking a behavior and training class and she was the horse I picked out of the hat and to work with. Everyone was horrified on my behalf. Even the instructor didn't expect much from her--my task for the class was to simply try to catch her, as she had the 5 acre quarantine field to run around in and wouldn't let anybody within 50 feet of her. The instructor (who was a QH person all the way) labeled her as a nutcase ayrab who was too old and too wild to ever change. I was told not to worry if I couldn't catch her by the end of the class. The expectations were so low, I was also assigned a nice QH yearling to work with, so I wouldn't "fail the class because of that crazy mare!"
That "crazy mare" taught me SO much. I actually had her catchable by the end of the first week, but didn't tell anybody (the QT field was nowhere near where they rest of the horses for the class were). Thinking back on it now, it really wasn't very safe to have let a student to be out in a pasture alone working a "crazy" horse, but I guess nobody expected me to actually get close enough to her to get hurt!
I enjoyed working with her so much, and once she trusted me, there wasn't anything she wouldn't do once I figured out how to get her to understand what I was asking. It was a pretty foolhardy thing to saddle break a horse alone in the middle of a huge field, but it didn't seem that way at the time! She was a very good girl about it, never any buck or rear. She learned stuff as fast as I could teach it to her (i still think she was smarter than I was).
Wasn't everyone shocked when, on midterm exam day, I not only arrived at the main farm with the mare, but rode her there! I think she was just as proud as I was to have everyone staring. And she sure didn't put a foot wrong, despite never having been ridden around other horses before.
By the end of the class, she was reliable w/t/c and I had even put her over some small fences, just to show she was willing. I could go to the gate and call and she'd come to meet me. Nobody had told her
that she was too old to learn anything new.
At the end of the class, she was sold to an older woman who wanted a light riding horse and pasture pet. I would like to hope she is still moseying around somewhere, but I suspect she's no longer in this world. If only all throwaway broodies got such an ending!